U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Louisiana Abortion Restrictions Upheld

A federal appeals court restored a Louisiana law that requires abortion doctors have credentials to work at hospitals.

In June Medical Services v. Gee, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision that struck down the law as unconstitutional. Act 620 provides that treating doctors at abortion clinics must have credentials at a hospital within 30 miles.

The appeals panel said the law was intended to protect "maternal health" and "unborn life." But one dissenting judge said it was an "undue burden" on women's rights.

"Political Controversy"

Judge Patrick Higginbotham said Act 620 violated the Supreme Court's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed a woman's right to choose. Reporting on the Fifth Circuit decision, Courthouse News noted an "obvious" reference to political controversy surrounding abortion.

"It is apparent that when abortion comes on stage it shadows the role of settled judicial rules," the judge said in an opinion as long as the majority decision.

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., a political shadow hung over the confirmation hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He has been accused of rape and sexual assault in what many observers see as a deeper battle over abortion rights.

In the Fifth Circuit, the judges are also deeply divided on the issue. In another controversial case, a judge recently struck a law that would require abortion providers to bury or cremate fetuses.

"Unlike Texas"

Judge Jerry Smith, writing for the majority in the Louisiana case, distinguished it from Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a case out of Texas. In that case, the Supreme Court reversed the Fifth Circuit's ruling on the admitting privileges rule.

In Louisiana, opponents argued the law would force clinics to close and impair a woman's choice. The majority dismissed the argument.

"Here, only one doctor at one clinic is currently unable to obtain privileges; there is no evidence that any of the clinics will close as a result of the Act," they said.

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